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Wednesday, September 28, 2005 

Sabbath Work

Reading: Basics of Biblical Hebrew
Enjoying: Cheerios
Listening: Joshua Harris' lectures I mentioned here

Rev. Danny Hyde, pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church in Oceanside, CA, has some excellent thoughts regarding the Christian Sabbath. In an article encouraging his flock to "Love the Lord Through the Liturgy," Hyde walks his people through the nature of the Christian Sabbath. After showing the importance of the seventh day in the Old Covenant, he goes on to show how, through Christ's resurrection, the sanctified day is transferred from the last day of the week - Saturday - to the first day, when Christ rose. This is why the Christian church, beginning with the apostles and the NT church, has always celebrated Sunday as the Lord's Day.
Hyde notes that we must let the Lord's Day structure us, contending that

So instead of seeing the Lord’s Day as a rule that stifles our “weekend”, we need to view it as a gift from God that actually structures our lives by providing a rhythm to keep the Lord’s Day.

Avoiding the rat race of corporate America, or the "squeeze-as-much- out-of-the-weekend-as-possible-while-begrudgingly-sparing-time-for-church" attitude so prevalent in white suburbia, the biblical outlook is seeing the Sabbath ordain the ebb and flow of life; our free time, work, appointments, and other duties of daily life fall under the consistent, steady, easy rhythm of the Christian Sabbath.

Hyde closes with another helpful realization about the Lord's Day:

Since we have been liberated from serving ourselves in order to serve God, let us use this liberty to love the Lord through the liturgy on the Lord’s Day as we show our gratitude for the glorious Gospel of grace.

He had opened the article commenting on the fact that the Reformation had so wholly been about liberty: liberty from the state, from Popery, from sin, and from worldly expectations. In closing his reflection, he helpfully rounds out liberty by seeing that rest is a releasing from our self-destructive habits.

Sabbath Work?
Though Reverend Hyde excellently addresses the Lord's Day, one issue that is biblically relevent but rarely discussed is the issue of proper work that is accomplished on the Sabbath. I find this especially relevent. As I desire to be an elder of the Church, and especially a teaching elder charged with Word and Sacrament, an important part of my work, my vocatio, will occur on Sunday. However, ministers are not the only ones that work on Sundays. The whole congregation works. The issue of work on Sundays is not a matter of working, but what kind of work, and who we work for.

Consider the original Sabbath paradigm. On the seventh day, God rested from His work. However, it is wrong to say that the Lord was some sort of lazy, twenty-something slob of a man addicted to his X-box. While God did rest from creative work that had constituted His previous six days, He was nevertheless involved in sustaining all things by the Word of His power (Colossians 1:15 - 17); loving His creation and Himself, hearing and answering Adam and Eve's prayers, etc. God was exceedingly busy on the seventh day of creation. The difference, however, was the kind of work He rested from.

Similarly, we are not called to no work on Sundays. Rather, we are called to give our best work then, works of love, works of song and prayer, works of mercy, and works of believing. We as Christians are called to rest from work for ourselves. Six days we are to labor in this earth, to sustain our families, to inaugurate Christ's kingdom in this world, and to perpetuate good deeds and mercy to those who rebel against their Sovereign. But one day a week, on Sunday, Christians are called to work in the world to come. During Sunday morning worship, when the Invocation is given, and God is called upon in the Name of Jesus, the sky is torn away, heaven draws near, and the Church militant joins with the cloud of witnesses and saints from every age in praise to our Triune God. In the heavenly throng, we lift our voices and prayers with archangels and seraphim and elders to glorify the Lamb, and God. We work in heavenly court the works which our Father has prepared for us.

So Christians rest, and yet never rest. We labor and toil in futility on this earth, as the curse is not yet fully removed. However, the Gospel spreads, and God is merciful. But when the Lord's Day comes, then we work with joy and singing, we labor and give thanks. His yolk is easy, and the burdens to carry on Sunday are light. We do not work on this planet, but by faith are working away at praising Father, Logos, and Spirit.

So don't think this weekend about all the work you need to get done on Sunday. Your calendar is already booked on the Lord's Day. Your assignment list is full. You have a heavenly work set before you this Sunday. Labor at it with your whole heart, that by faith in Jesus, you may find rest.

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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